January 19, 2001

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714
Holly Zanville, 541-346-5726

Study Confirms Oregon Teacher Shortage, Better Teacher Preparation

EUGENE- A new study confirms Oregon's teacher shortages in certain subjects and areas of the state, and says the state's revised teacher preparation programs are graduating better prepared educators.

The findings come from a study conducted in August among all of the state's public schools by the Oregon Quality Assurance in Teaching Program (O-QAT), a three-year federally funded statewide teacher enhancement project.

The study found that during the past two years nearly half of Oregon's school have had difficulty recruiting for teaching positions, particularly in key areas such as mathematics, science, languages, music, English-as-a-second language (ESL), bilingual education, and special education. School principals are also experiencing difficulty recruiting teachers from diverse groups such as ethnic minorities.

By region, the areas of the state reporting the most difficulty included the north coast, eastern Oregon, the Salem and Columbia Gorge areas.

By grade level, elementary schools reported the most difficulty attracting candidates in special education, music, ESL/bilingual education, counseling, and media and library services. Special education, math, ESL/bilingual education, science and math topped the most difficult to recruit list at the middle school level. And among high schools the most difficult positions to fill were those in math, special education, science, languages, music and counseling.

The schools also reported problems in finding substitute teachers, particularly at middle and high school levels.

The good news from the study is that Oregon's teacher preparation programs, which were redesigned two years ago under the guidelines of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, appear to be producing better prepared graduates.

"The redesigned programs better align our teacher preparation with K-12 school reforms and reflect higher standards for the preparation of new Oregon teachers," said Holly Zanville, associate vice chancellor, Oregon University System, who directs the O-QAT project.

Among Oregon schools that have hired initially licensed teachers in the past two years, the study found that more than 90 percent of principals rated their new hires as "very well" or "fairly well" prepared for their jobs.
The percent that rated the teachers as "very well prepared" was nearly twice as great (34 percent to 17 percent) as new graduates who were hired more than two years ago.

"The Joint Council of Deans of Education from the 16 public and independent institutions which prepare new teachers in Oregon, met recently to review the study's findings. They are encouraged by these early positive results. But we know we must continue to improve our programs and raise the standards for new teachers," Zanville added.

State colleges and universities are increasing their production of new teachers to try to meet Oregon's needs for more teachers in many of the shortage areas. But the effort is causing a new concern which emerged in the study. The concern is how to find enough high quality student teaching placements in Oregon schools for the increasing number of student teachers. The O-QAT project plans to study the issue by looking at the experiences of this year's 2,200 student teachers and their mentor teachers.

The study was presented to the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission last week.

"Our Commissioners are encouraged to see positive results from their redesign efforts," said David Myton, executive director of the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

Roughly half of Oregon's school principals (626 of 1,222) participated in the O-QAT study. The responses were evenly represented by type (elementary, middle and high schools), counties and regions of the state. The full study is available on the World Wide Web at: http://www.ous.edu/aca/studies.htm

The new study compares favorably to a school shortage study conducted by the Oregon School Personnel Association last spring. That study found the following shortages in rank order: 1) special education, 2) mathematics, 3) counselors, 4) speech pathologists, foreign language (Spanish), 5) high school principals, technology education, 6) library media, science (chemistry, physics), superintendents, and 7) English as a second language and bilingual education."

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